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★★★✩✩

The Expendables

Directed by Sylvester Stallone

Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li

Rated R

One of the most highly anticipated movies of the summer, The Expendables is a collaboration and celebration of 80s and 90s action stars who have united in one movie with a sole purpose: make as much money as possible.

The story follows a team of black ops special forces as they travel to the corners of the world, taking on terrorists and various ne’er-do-wells. Several have their own general talents, running the gamut from knife-throwing to tattoo artistry.

If the star-studded main cast wasn’t beefed up enough, we get more surprise cameos from other manly men over the course of the movie. Arnold Schwarzenegger makes an appearance at one point, apparently playing Dutch from Predator. It’s the real Arnold, not a CGI version à la Terminator Salvation; and it’s abundantly clear why he can’t be in any more Terminator movies. He’s looking a little worse for the wear.

Bruce Willis is only in one scene as well, unfortunately, and it’s the same scene. It’s kind of surreal seeing him in the same scene as Arnold and Stallone. The bad news is that this was one of very few scenes where the movie really had my attention. Most of the movie’s dialogue is pretty bland and unnecessary — a fact that the actors seem to be aware of too. The other 90 percent of the movie, which consists of stuff blowing up, also manages to get boring pretty quickly. Even the one-on-one fights tend to suffer from Michael Bay-esque shaky cam, which will most likely have the audience wondering what exactly is going on.

Audiences hoping for a Rocky IV rematch will be disappointed, as Dolph Lundgren and Sylvester Stallone don’t really ever do battle in the movie. It seems like a real missed opportunity for a shout-out to their fans, but this movie is full of missed opportunities. More often than not, every opportunity for an in-joke or old-school reference for the fans ends up turning into more generic action movie fluff.

The villain in Expendables is a nefarious ex-CIA agent played by Eric Roberts. It’s hard to say exactly what he does now or how he got to be an evil businessman, since the movie doesn’t particularly do a good job on the character development side. For that matter, none of the characters have lucid histories. Assuming the role of the evil bodyguard is Steve Austin, who has disappointingly few lines — another missed opportunity for the movie to have some fun with itself in regards to the stellar cast.

Speaking of in-jokes and the lack thereof, there was one particularly good one that has to do with Schwarzenegger’s political ambitions. Sadly, there remained a wealth of untapped potential for the movie to really make the audience laugh — if only it had been a little more realized.

Perhaps due to how weak the rest of the acting was, Mickey Rourke steals the show with a particular scene in which he recounts a mission to Serbia. He displays some raw emotion in that scene and manages to capture the inner strife and pain of a guy who, not only has been through hell and back but continues to be haunted by it. I can safely say that it was by far the best exposition scene in the movie, and Rourke really stepped it up. The scene was also the only fragment of the film where I found myself caring about the characters on-screen, what with all the forced dialogue in the rest of it.

Ultimately, that may well be the biggest problem with The Expendables. It just doesn’t really have any heart or soul for us to care. Taken for what it is, a meaningless action movie, it’s okay. It could be much more, though, as a collaboration amongst so many action heroes that the 80s/90s generation looks up to. Aside from that one cameo-riffic scene in the church, it just never touches upon its potential. Late in the movie, Eric Roberts’ character points out to Stallone’s character that they’re both dead inside. The same could apply to the movie.